Meet our Tech of the Month, Michael McKenna. Nominated by Chris Doyle from the Alamo City Pinball League.
Chris writes: “Mike is the lead tech for What’s Brewing? Coffee Roasters maintaining our 38 machines as well as running his own repair company, MJM Amusements, on the side from his main job working as a civilian for the Air Force. He is often on the Marco PinTech Livestreams. Here is an article from last year on him. Long story short, pinball in San Antonio would not be where it is right now without this man! Thank you.”
Q: How did you first get into the hobby?
“I played a lot when I was a kid in the 1970’s. Some time in 2014, I started looking for a pinball and ended up with a project Gottlieb Force II.”
Q: Did you have a background in another field that made that transition easier?
“I have been troubleshooting and repairing government electronics for 30 years. I went to school for electrical engineering. I run a shop that repairs and certifies communication equipment for ground stations and satellites for the Department of Defense. I get certified to solder to the IPC-J-STD-001 with Space Addendum biannually for work, that experience helps when re-working circuit cards and parts. “
Q: Some techs have a particular aspect they really enjoy working on or they have a specialized set of skills (ie: boards, EMs, new Sterns, restoring cabinet art, etc) — do you specialize in something? or what’s your favorite aspect to work on?
“I have experience in all of the common system repair, not a restorer, (System 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, WPC/WCS, Pinball 2000, Ballys/Stern early SS, Sega/Data East, Gottlieb System 1 and 3, System 80, SAM/SPIKE, and EM (Gottlieb, Williams, Bally and Stern) I have not had much experience with Atari or Gameplan.
I enjoy them all for different reasons, but EMs are probably the most fun and rewarding as a mixture of mechanical and electrical. The schematic and operation is like a puzzle game. You rarely need parts… Other than some leaf switches you can get from scrap.”
Q: What are you working on now and in the past, What has been your favorite project/game that you worked on?
“I am working on a heavily routed The Simpsons Pinball Party, a Bally Beat the Clock, Hot Tip EM and Sky Jump EM and a Gottlieb System 1 Pinball Pool. Two are mine and the rest are customer jobs. Also, maintaining 38 machines at a location.
My favorite was a warehouse find Addams Family. Missing parts, boards and mechs. This was early in my pinball repair, paid $4K for it and brought it back to life. Its the game I have owned the longest. It still looks and plays great!”
Q: What is the best way to contact you and what areas do you service? Do you also operate your own route? If so, would you like to shout out those locations?
“I’m in your tech database. Use the contact info in there. I don’t advertise other than that. Has been 4 years since I started my business and I haven’t gone a day without at least 2 customer jobs I’m working on top of the location. I service San Antonio area, have done work in Austin and Corpus Christi on some occasions.
I operate a route (1 location, currently) with 19 pinball machines. Shout out to What’s Brewing (38 machines).“
Have someone you want to nominate for the Tech of the Month? E-mail [email protected]!
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We are excited to partner with Comet Pinball, the leading purveyor of LEDs in pinball machines. Comet Pinball has a massive, and growing, inventory of LED bulbs and matrix units to bring pinball machines to life.
Comet Pinball offers three different shades of white: Warm White, Sunlight, and Cool White. Which one is right for your game? Click “Read More” at the top right for more info.
Stern’s James Bond 007 cornerstone pinball machine will highlight film footage and iconic music from the films that built the 007 legend: Dr. No, From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), and Diamonds Are Forever (1971). Players are immersed into the world of espionage in this action-packed pinball experience, tackling assignments, teaming up with key allies, and stopping SPECTRE’s villainous schemes.
Gather gadgets from Q Branch as pinballs get ejected through the roof of a custom sculpted Aston Martin DB5. Break through the Osato Chemicals drop targets to battle SPECTRE at the Bird One rocket base.
James Bond 007 pinball machines include Stern’s award-winning Insider Connected™ system, which enables players to interact with the game and a global network of players in a variety of ways. Through Insider Connected, players can track progress, earn new game-specific achievements, engage with the player community, and participate in promotions and Challenge Quests. Insider Connected also provides an operator-focused toolset to drive location play through Location Leaderboards, build player loyalty, analyze performance, make adjustments remotely, and maintain the machines. Registration for Insider Connected is available at insider.sternpinball.com/.
Limited to 1,000 machines globally, the highly collectible cornerstone Limited Edition includes an exclusive full-color mirrored backglass inspired by Thunderball, masterfully adapted cabinet artwork, custom high gloss and powder-coated pinball armor, a custom designer-autographed bottom arch, exclusive inside art blades, upgraded audio system, anti-reflection pinball playfield glass, shaker motor, a sequentially numbered plaque, and a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Stern Chairman Gary Stern and President Seth Davis.
“James Bond is as timeless as pinball. Partnering with EON Productions/Danjaq, MGM Studios and Aston Martin, we created a pinball adventure capturing the suspense, action, and humor from this beloved film series.” said Gary Stern, Chairman and CEO. “Get connected today and become a legend.”
Join me as I recap the Marco team’s visit to the eighth-annual Southern-Fried Gaming Expo in Atlanta as well as my first game convention experience.
It’s Thursday July 14th, bright and early. We finished putting the final touches on loading up our hauler. We left our home base in Lexington, SC for the drive down to Atlanta to the beautiful and absolutely massive Cobb Galleria Convention Center. I was walking into the empty main hall wondering just how they’re going to manage to fill this place up, when the vendors started arriving. Trucks and vans were being unloaded left and right with all the pinball and arcade machines you could ever imagine. All the games I remember from my childhood days at our local mall’s arcade and then some were there! But enough nostalgia, it was time to get working to put together the Marco booth! We were fixing to fill up almost a quarter of the whole hall with our setup! Everything came out of our hauler and we had endless stacks of aluminum trusses, lighting, cords, tents, banners, and hardware. Our fearless leader Marco Ramirez arrived with an entire trailer loaded down with pinball machines, and our vendor partner Jason Grindle and the team from Classic Game Rooms showed up with another hauler full of even more pinball machines, parts displays, and other goodies soon after! I started to have my doubts on how this massive pile of stuff would have any resemblance to a show booth but after a ton of hard work by the entire team we were starting to see things come together. After plowing away all day and well into the evening we had things really starting to come together and looking pro! We finished up around 9pm and got rested up to put the finishing touches on everything in the morning for opening day.
We were all back at the booth early Friday morning to finalize everything and get the internet set up in time for the grand opening. Mike Vinikour and Michael Grant from Stern Pinball did a masterful job getting the “Insider Connected” leaderboard system set up to display all of the high scores from Rush, Mandalorian, Deadpool, and Godzilla on two big screens at the front of our booth. Our booth was officially done and dressed to impress!
The hall opened to the public Friday afternoon and the masses started to pour in! Pinball is HOT at SFGE and there were lines of gaming enthusiasts eagerly waiting to play at every machine in the hall. The Phils Pinball drew a lot of attention in our booth with their “Pinball Sick Bay” set up doing live, on site repairs and educating people on how to fix their own machines. Classic Gamerooms had a great looking display showcasing custom shooter rods, toppers, and other Stern accessories. On the left side of our booth we had “Arcade Alley” set up with help from many different arcades around the southeast including the following:
Our local Belles and Chimes chapter were there playing in the tournaments at the show and interacting with everyone around the booth. Finally at the Marco table we had set up a smorgasbord of free swag and a prize wheel where visitors could spin and win, with the catch of having to challenge and beat one of the Marco team members at a game of pinball to get a spin. I got my butt kicked by more than one kid there. Don’t sleep on the kids, some of them are really good! It was a great experience getting to interact with our customers, pinball enthusiasts, and people who had never even played pinball before.
On Saturday I actually got the chance to meander around the show and check out and play every game imaginable. Brad Albright (designer of our super rad Marco Tech Shirts) had a booth set up there. There were plenty of great seminars for everyone to learn about anything gaming. Our own Imoto Harney recorded Rick Pecot’s EM seminar and gave away one of our very cool and useful Marco tool belt pouches to a lucky attendee. This show had everything from hundreds of unique card and board games to cocktail table arcade and pinball machines to vintage computers to VR and even the very first Gottlieb Pinball machine that started our entire hobby! SFGE went all out this year! They even had live wrestling as well as the infamous Hotlanta Extreme Eating Challenge. Marco did NOT compete in the eating challenge this year but he’s still a champion in our hearts! We tried to get him into wrestling instead but they said he was overqualified.
Saturday evening we had a fantastic dinner with the whole Marco team, followed by the very first Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award ceremony. After a moving speech by Shannon DeWitt, founder and president of SFGE, we presented the Marc Mandeltort Distinguished Gamer Award to David Kitch for his tireless dedication to the pinball community.
As we fast forward to the last day of the event which was Sunday, they were still packing people into the hall all day long! They literally had to shut off the power to all the games to give the signal that it’s time to go. This crowd would’ve stayed another week if they were allowed to! Packing up went well and is much faster than setting up. We were able to get back home with everything by midnight. I may have slept better than I’ve ever slept in my entire life after 4 days of fun with some of the best folks I’ve been blessed to know and work with. I wouldn’t have had it any other way! We can’t wait to see all of y’all again at SFGE 2023!
SFGE announced their dates for 2023, so put it on your calendar, pre-register to get your discount tix, and we’ll see you there!
The iconic, genre-defining franchise has been immortalized by Stern and features the original Bond, Sean Connery. Players will experience James Bond’s most famous assignments in this action-packed pinball adventure, immersed into the world of espionage, tackling assignments, teaming up with key allies, and stopping SPECTRE’s villainous schemes. Along with Pro, Premium and Limited Editions, Stern will also release a special James Bond 007 60th Anniversary Limited Edition pinball machine featuring all seven James Bond actors.
You know the name, you know the number… contact us today to reserve your Stern pro or premium machine! Call 1-803-957-5500 or email us at [email protected]
On Thursday, September 8th at 5pm Eastern, Stern Pinball’s George Gomez and Taylor Bancroft will join us on PinTech LIVE to discuss all the new and amazing updates to the Stern Pinball Insider Connected™ platform!
Our PinTech LIVE series is available on multiple streaming platforms. Subscribe/Follow now to get instant notifications on when we go LIVE!
Stern Pinball continues to expand its award-winning Insider Connected platform with new features to enjoy at home and on location. With an easier to use mobile ID card and Home Team system that will automatically log in home users, Insider Connected is even easier to access anywhere. Milestone Badges tracking daily streaks, days played, and games played are live now! Milestone Badges earned will display on your Insider Connected profile, so Connect, Play, and Achieve!
Available for all Stern Insiders, listen to this special episode of the Stern Insider Pinball Podcast with President Seth Davis as he describes all of the great new features of Insider Connected and the future of pinball and connectivity!
Insider ConnectedTM Global Leaderboards:
Test yourself and participate in the next Global Leaderboards! Find your nearest Stern pinball machine featured on our current worldwide Leaderboard via any connected machine. Log in with your Insider Connected account at your home or a location near you to climb up the ranks, follow the action, and see who will emerge victorious and earn those ultimate bragging rights! As always, we’ll also be running a verified location leaderboard, showcasing who the true grand champion is!
Q: Where are you located, how long have you been around pinball and how long have you been working on games for? A: My name is Pat Choy, and I do full service pinball store – we do tech work, on site repairs – mobile repair service in your home, full restorations – play field swaps / full cabinet restorations and silk screening and installation of decals, and we retail and sell games too.
Q: How did you first get into the hobby? A: Bought my first game in 1991, Williams 1980 Black Knight pinball. Hobbyist / collector from 1991 to 1998… in 1998 started my first company Perfect Amusements when I lived in Chicago , then in 2007 I moved out to southern California and started my second pinball company Endless Pinball in 2007. Endless Pinball is now 15 years old!
Q: Did you jump right into repairing machines or did you learn under someone else? A: A little of both, I learned on my own, but also posted questions on rec.games.pinball newsgroups – there was no google back then.
I was lucky enough to have Williams and Bally employees who were friends of mine and that helped speed up the learning curve tremendously. Plus a lot of hard work and reading too.
Q: Did you have a background in another field that made that transition easier? A: My background / my college degree is a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science so I believe the analytic skills help me in repairing and troubleshooting pinball games.
Q: Some techs have a particular aspect they really enjoy working on or they have a specialized set of skills (ie: boards, EMs, new Sterns, restoring cabinet art, etc) – Do you specialize in something? What’s your favorite aspect to work on? A: My favorite tech work is troubleshooting and fixing games. Why isn’t this working? It’s like a jigsaw puzzle trying to make all the pieces fit and work again. I also really enjoy play field swaps and full cabinet restoration work especially applying decals to beat up cabinets. The satisfaction level is great since you are taking something that doesn’t look very nice and you are making it look almost brand new. That’s very satisfying and fun. I also enjoy doing board level repair and fixing circuit boards as well. I’m not thrilled about working on EM games though, they are just too temperamental and tweaky although I can and have worked on them.
Q: What are you working on now? What has been your favorite project/game that you worked on? A: I’m working on a ton of stuff right now – full restoration on white water – new cabinet decals and play field swap out. Troubleshooting many games – Data East Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Medieval Madness, Twilight Zone, Scared Stiff, Indiana Jones, that’s a partial list. Covid and people staying indoors have really ramped up pinball work for us.
My favorite project of all time was being involved with the Skittles company. They came to us and wanted a reskin of a game – they wanted a Skittles pinball game. So we took a 1979 Williams Flash pinball game and re-skin it as a Skittle pinball game. We sanded the whole cabinet down to plywood and we also sanded the play field down to plywood. They brought in a team of artists and made decal overlays for the play field and created new art for the cabinet and back box, our job was to install everything perfectly. We even removed the metal coin door and replaced it with a plexiglass see-through door with shelves inside that would hold about 20 packs of Skittles so you could get free Skittles candy whenever you wanted! That was a fun and challenging project. I love doing custom work like that. Those projects are rare and few though since they are so costly. We ended up building just 3 of these custom Skittles machines.
Q: What is the best way to contact you and what areas do you service? A: Best way to contact me is email: [email protected] or by cell phone (630) 220-8478 (text messages are always great).
I service all over Southern California… Basically as far south as San Diego, inland empire areas like Riverside and Temecula, Orange County of course, Los Angeles areas (North Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills), and the valley (Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills, 1000 Oaks, Ventura, Moor Park, etc). I cover about a 200 mile radius of Orange County.